The expectation is high. God has promised great blessing through Abraham’s seed. The seed has a bride, she is not just beautiful but blessed greatly, and her offspring will crush his enemy. And then, 25v21 we find that “she was barren”. Not again! Surely not! How can it be that the blessed bride whose seed will win can’t have children. We remember the command and commission to humanity to multiply and remember that this is something that requires divine intervention. The LORD closed the wombs of Abimelech’s household, and opened them. The LORD is the one who gives children. When we compare the two commissions of Genesis 1v28 and Matthew 28 it’s not that the borning is man’s work and the born-againing is God’s work. The LORD does both. And so Isaac prays and God answers. Isaac’s life is like his fathers, and the events of v21 are a condensing of 20 years from when Isaac is 40 to 60.
The Wonder of Grace
Rebekah senses the striving of her children. Twins for the first time. She inquires of the LORD. And he shares his counsel with her – not just two children, but two nations are within her. This is a blessed woman. Yet these are divided nations. Moreover the stronger will serve the other, the older the younger. This is subversive! Such is God’s way to defy human expectations. His way to defy human boasting (Romans 9v10-13) by choosing one over the other, against type, independent of performance and lifestyle. Two children, indistinguishable, yet one is chosen. We cry (Romans 10v14) unfair and yet the light shines on us – dangerous territory to start asking God for justice. We're ok to ask whether this gospel is defensible, but let us tread carefully. Instead it is the preservation of God’s purpose in election that is to shine, this is why he picks out the unlikely, its why the line of God’s purposes to bring the winning seed into the world again takes an unexpected turn. Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau… no-one gets to boast. Instead, stand in wonder of God’s electing purpose.
The Warning of Grace
Then we see the brothers – one a hunter (like Nimrod and Cain?), one a peaceful (righteous) man who dwells in tents (!!). Already one begins to stand out in the story of the Man and his bride. Esau the Red comes hungry (starving) and wants the red stew, Jacob sells dinner to his brother at the prince of his birthright. Esau so devalues God’s great purposes that he sells out his inheritance for his stomach. His god is not the LORD but his gut. No wonder he stands as a warning to not fail to obtain grace. Later he was sorrowful but wasn’t granted repentance (Hebrews 12), it could not be undone. Scary.
We might fall into his ways, but our attention should not be on us and our sin, or our sorrow or our repentance. This is the warning of God’s electing purpose. And in this we come to the mountain of God’s people, to Jesus whose blood mediates for us, yesterday, today and forever. This is the focus of God’s electing purpose, the great river of his grace that flows out from Eden and will one day see his people returned there. The sons of Isaac call us to get in on grace, which is infinitely better than all else. Don't look to how you've done, good or bad. And don't tread carelessly in the courts of divine wisdom about his purpose of election, instead look to the victorious seed of Rebekah, to Jesus who crushes his enemy and lavishes grace upon his people.